2018 Toyota Avalon: Flagship mid-size sedan stays the course

By Mike Blake Carlisle Events
Thursday, January 11, 2018

Toyota’s luxury sedan, the Avalon, has been at the top end of the line-up since its launch in the 1994-’95 model year, when it replaced the Cressida.

Named for the legendary island in Arthurian lore, Avalon is seven years into its fourth generation. Avalon underwent its last facelift and freshening for the 2016 model year, and continues to present premium style, performance, interior amenities, and presence in a mid-size sedan.

The 2018 Avalon remains essentially the same as the 2017 model, which was largely the same vehicle we saw in 2016.but with premium amenities added. Chrome 18-inch wheels are now standard on the Limited trim I tested, but little else has been upgraded to the vehicle.

However, the Avalon remains unique in its segment with the choice of V6 or hybrid powertrains. The Avalon’s 3.5-liter, DOHC V-6 with Dual VVT-i (Variable Valve Timing with intelligence) produces 268 horsepower and 248 lb.-ft. of torque.

As for its looks, the premium midsize sedan has a coupe-like profile, bold grille and discrete chrome trim. Its sweeping roofline limits some headroom, but does not interfere with comfort inside and increases aerodynamics. The roofline melds into a sleek side silhouette with a low vehicle beltline and chiseled shoulder line that is sculpted into side sheet metal. Avalon’s fluid body side design cues incorporate a symmetrical slanted-slit upper grille, wide-mouth lower grille, hood channels and narrow headlamp lenses. The rear is angular, from its raked rear window to its LED taillamps extending onto the trunk lid and connecting with a chrome strip.

The front-wheel drive mid-size sits on a 111.0-inch wheelbase that serves as the platform for a length of 195.3 inches, width of 72.2 inches and a height of 57.5 inches. Avalon’s ground clearance is 5.5 inches and curb weight is a solid 3583 lbs. in Limited trim.

My test Avalon Limited was a gas-powered sedan powered by its all-aluminum 3.5-liter V-6 engine mated to a conventional six-speed automatic transmission. My week of mixed-use testing averaged 26.9 mpg.

On the highway, Avalon was stable and confident, and passed vehicles with pride, offering good power at speed. Steering and handling were predictable and compliant, and cabin comfort and quietness on the road were befitting of luxury status. Electrically assisted rack-and-pinion steering left some understeer, while the MacPherson strut front suspension with stabilizer bar and a dual-link independent MacPherson strut rear suspension with stabilizer bar conveyed a luxurious ride.

On the track, Avalon was steady, but not lightning fast, as I finished off a zero-to-60mph sprint in 6.8 seconds during a quarter-mile run of 15.3 seconds.

Premium amenities and design touches define the Avalon interior. The power windows slow down as they approach the top of the window frames, and the sculpted soft-touch interior surfaces and easy-to-use multimedia and connectivity make for a lavish environment. With seating for five, Avalon comes up a bit short on headroom at only 37.6 inches in row one and 37.9 inches in row two (with moonroof), but legroom is accommodating at 42.1 inches up front and a respectable 39.2 inches in the rear seats. Shoulder room is comfortable at 58.2 and 57.0.

Safetywise, the 2018 Avalon scores well with unibody construction that absorbs and dissipates frontal, side, and roof impacts to minimize cabin deformity and offer occupants superior protection. Equipped with 10 standard airbags, Avalon safety systems include more than a dozen up-level safety items.

The 2018 Avalon is available in eight models, starting with XLE trim for $33,500 with standard 3.5-liter V-6 gas engine, leather-trimmed heated front seats, integrated backup camera, 17-inch dark gray painted alloy wheels with machined finish, Smart Key System with Push Button Start, Entune™ Audio Plus with Connected Navigation App and 10 airbags. The XLE Plus, at $35,350, adds auto-dimming mirror and tilt/slide moonroof. The XLE Premium starts at $36,700 and adds Entune™ Premium Audio with Integrated Navigation and App Suite, Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Qi-Compatible Wireless Smartphone Charging for eBin™ storage tray and memory driver's seat and mirrors. Next up is the Touring trim and its 18-inch Dark Gray painted alloy wheels, LED headlights with daytime running lights and premium leather steering wheel with paddle shifters at $37,900; and the Limited (my test ride) started at $41,300, adding premium perforated leather trim heated/ventilated front seats, Entune™ Premium JBL® Audio with Integrated Navigation and App Suite, Safety Connect response center, Three-Zone Automatic Climate Control with Air Filter and Rear-Seat Vents, 18-inch chrome alloy wheels and Power Rear-Window Shade. The Hybrid versions of XLE Plus, XLE Premium and XLE Limited start at $37,500, $38,950 and $42,800 with the 2.5L 4-Cylinder Hybrid ECVT engine. My test Avalon Limited came in Ooh La La Rouge (Deep Red) Metallic Paint, coupled with Premium Black Leather interior and added 17-inch Super Chrome Alloy Wheels with P215/55R17 tires for $770, mudguards for $85, body side moldings for $209, door edge guards for $125, lower body moldings for $299, carpeted floor mats for $129; a remote engine starter for $499 and a delivery processing and handling fee of $895 for a sticker-as-tested of $43,412.

> Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.

Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.

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